The Elephant In The Room: Anatomy of a Corrupt Hiring Interview

See the attached video on “Interview Bias” and enjoy reading this week’s post! Have a great week everyone!

I recently received an email from an avid fan (yes, I have one!) saying, “Lee, you look a little too rough around the edges to know what you’re talking about.” To which I said, “Well, if you’d been working in the area of hiring interviews for as long as I have, you’d be rough around the edges too!” Anyone who’s been in the HR/Hiring field for any length of time knows what I’m talking about. So, yes, I may look a little rough, but I’ve earned it!

Looking ‘rough’ is a great segway into today’s subject matter: the corrupt interview. Interview corruption really is the ‘elephant in the room’ in many hiring situations, and I’m sure once we talk more about it, you’ll be able to relate.

So, what is a corrupt interview? In essence, an interview becomes corrupted when either the premise or objective of the interview process and/or the methodology for conducting the interview itself are compromised. There are a variety of reasons why an interview or the process surrounding the interview might become compromised and, therefore, corrupted. Let’s dig into what I consider to be the top 3 common causes for interview corruption.

Interview Bias

Let’s start with Interview Bias In previous blog posts I’ve talked a lot about how the subjective feelings, impressions, and beliefs of the interviewer can cloud the analysis and decision-making process for hiring interviews. This common pitfall is the same reason that my ‘avid fan’ made their comment about me looking ‘too rough around the edges: the average interviewer forms their overall judgement of a job candidate within the first 5 minutes of the interview process.

This phenomenon of subjectivity is not a bad thing. However, when an interviewer fails to consider their own subjective judgments throughout the interview process, then the accuracy and effectiveness of the interview is at risk of becoming corrupted.

How to avoid this process of interview bias? Do a Structured Interview! Part of eliminating or at least mitigating interview bias is making sure the interviewers are properly trained and motivated to conduct structured interviews. In addition, one of the best ways I know of to combat interview bias is to build the interview around a series of pre-determined questions that focus on drawing out the past experience of the candidate and then sticking to using those same questions throughout each and every interview you do for the same hiring campaign.

Political/Social Interference

Ok, so one of the biggest parts of this elephant in the room is the whole issue around ‘hidden’ or ‘not-so-hidden’ political agendas and how these nasty things are brought into the hiring interview process. I’m sure you can think of your own experience where the interview outcome or hiring decision seemed to have already been made by the ‘powers that be,’ even before the interview process started! Maybe it was the case that a senior manager wanted or favored one candidate over another and somehow made their wishes known to the interviewers? Or maybe the interview process itself was set up simply to allow a certain candidate to be hired under the guise of a ‘fair’ or ‘legitimate’ process? Either way, the interview process is seen (by everyone looking on, if not also by the interviewers themselves) as not only unfair but also deeply corrupted. This type of interview serves only one purpose: To advance the agenda of whoever is pulling the strings inside the organization or company. It certainly won’t net the best candidate for the job, at least not by design!

Interviewer Integrity

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, the honesty and integrity of the interviewer(s) plays a huge role in how objective and effective the interview process will be. I recently had a client come to me to say they thought the interview process in one of the hiring decisions in their organization was flawed because the hiring manager insisted on hiring someone clearly not qualified for the job. When I asked my client why they thought this happened, they said the hiring manager favored the candidate ‘less qualified’ and ‘less experienced’ than them and, therefore, able to be more easily controlled and less likely to challenge them. This really rattled my cage! I’ve seen this kind of scenario more times than I’d like to admit, where the hiring manager or interviewers for whatever reason believe they need to ‘hire down’ in their selection and interviewing process. There are many reasons why this happens, but the most common is manager insecurity. When a manager feels insecure as a leader or in some aspect of their role, this sometimes results in the manager (either consciously or unconsciously) looking for and selecting people they feel will be less challenging to them as an employee. The subsequent hire will oftentimes result in an inferior candidate selection. This rationale looks for someone perceived as suitable for personal or professional control by the manager.

What then can be done to avoid or mitigate political interference and ensure interviewer integrity? I admit these are two of the hardest factors to manage simply because they can be affected by leaders or people with power inside the organization. I’ve had my share of frustration trying to manage interview processes where interference and integrity are at stake. If you have faced or are currently involved in an interview process that you believe is corrupted, I feel your pain! My suggestion is to have honest conversations with the people involved, with the objective of at least calling out the potential conflicts. Sometimes managers or owners will listen, especially if they know the impact their decisions may have on the perceived integrity of their company and/or themselves. You will have to make your own decision about how you choose to act within the limitations of your own circle of influence. If I dare wax philosophical here, I would say you are not alone in this and the world can be a challenging classroom at times. Nowhere is this more obvious than in hiring interviews.

There you have it! The elephant in the room is called out. Can you relate to any of these causes for interview corruption? I’d love to hear your stories and what you did to address the situation. Send me a note and tell me all about it!




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Then leave a comment below on your experience, thoughts or advise on the above ideas.

Want to put an end to ineffective, inaccurate and time-wasting hiring interviews? Please share this post with your network!


Lee Hodgins, CPHR works with entrepreneurs, business owners & hiring managers to leverage the power of hiring interviews to dramatically boost their effectiveness and accuracy in finding the most qualified job candidates. More information is awaiting you online at

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